Government representatives today engaged in a discussion with representatives of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF and the OAS on poverty in Belize with a focus on children. The first part of the event was an open house sponsored by UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation, in which the concept of multidimensional poverty index was introduced. The index, as explained by Dr. Susan Kasedde, UNICEF Representative in Belize, entails the measuring of poverty beyond income and expenditures to best understand how poverty affects children and families. That information can then be used to decide how best to address poverty in the country.
Dr. Susan Kasedde – UNICEF
“Looking also at factors related to inclusion, quality of services, participation and overall investment in the development of the potential of a human being. So, for children, we are interested in looking at the inclusion in school, in education. We are interested in looking at the quality of the learning that is happening in schools. We are looking for opportunities for learning from the earliest age and preparedness for school to competition of schooling. When we look at all of these together with access to health interventions, the quality of health interventions for the young child, for the adolescent and we look at protection we are able to get a more rounded picture of the experience of the most vulnerable children in our community and the effects of poverty in their inclusion and their quality of life.”
“We have been measuring poverty since 1995. We have had three Country Poverty Assessments. They have all used income as the measure of poverty so this really is the first formal workshop where we are discussing this multi-dimensional aspect. We’ve recognized that poverty has always been multi-dimensional for a long time but we have never been able to measure that and so what we are trying to do here is define how we can measure multi-dimensional poverty. We have presentations to talk about the concept and some ideas and then this afternoon will be all about developing that work plan. How we go from talking about it to actually go about measuring it for next year.”
The second part of the event was a workshop sponsored by the OAS focused on poverty in Belize, how it is measured and how the relevant agencies can create policies that will address and reduce poverty. Mark Antrobus, Social Planner Ministry of Human Development Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation, says the aim is to plan for the adoption of a multidimensional poverty index.
Mark Antrobus – Social Planner
“I think it is really critical; Belize has defined very ambitious targets and goals as part of its growth and sustainable development strategies as a signatory to the SDG agenda. We have committed as a country to ending poverty, now unless we know how that poverty manifests in the citizens across Belize and especially in our children; we are not really able to plan effectively for putting in interventions and investments in improvements that will address the effective poverty. I’ll give you a few examples; the recent MICS data that we launched noted that 30% of women age 20-49 were married before the age of 18. What that means in nearly 1/3 of girls based on that experience will be married before they have the full access to opportunities for growth and development as children that Belize can offer. It has protection implications and it certainly has health and income implications for these children. So, when we look at that and we look at the fact that only 60% we have a net enrollment ratio for secondary school for 60% down from 96% at primary we start to see the incidents of exclusions and violations that will have impact on income at the household level on health and ultimately for the development of Belize.”
The open house and workshop were held at the Inspiration Center in Belize City.